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Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Tri-Rail

Those costs aren't even on the same scale of what little it costs to operate a railroad. Maybe it's no wonder that more people are pushing for another kind of train on the FEC line.

"The FEC has been drooled over for decades," Seeburger says. But the new line, which, if approved by a patchwork of jurisdictions, may be built in eight or nine years, wouldn't make the existing CSX line obsolete. Tri-Rail currently has stations spread about five miles apart, making it a good option for people on their way to work who need to go large distances relatively fast.

The FEC line Seeburger is helping to develop would place stops only a mile or two apart, in downtowns and near other attractions. It's the one tourists would be more likely to use or folks on their lunch hour. Commuters would find it too slow.

Getting crowded, and only a little late.
Peter Stachiw/ZUMA Press
Getting crowded, and only a little late.

"They have to be complementary," he says. "And if they're not, there are a lot of things that go south on us... It doesn't make sense to have two commuter systems a mile apart from each other."

Plans also include connecting the two different lines, so the fast commuter on CSX could take a train that eventually slides over to the FEC and drops him off by a downtown office complex or college campus. Other ideas that are being developed are Miami and Fort Lauderdale streetcars that would connect with the FEC.

By the time that all gets built, people will be begging for it. At least, that is, if people keep coming to South Florida in the same waves.

If Tri-Rail hasn't shaken the soiled reputation it earned in its early days, it's probably because people still don't have enough motivation to get out of their cars. Traffic in Broward and Palm Beach counties just isn't bad enough. I-95, for example, is a breeze.

Take it from someone who grew up in Los Angeles. I know from traffic.

Before you gripe about the temporary slowdowns on your I-95 commute, you ought to spend a few hours on the Sepulveda Pass, where the 405 Freeway connects West Los Angeles with the San Fernando Valley and you can feel the prime of your life seeping away as you sit in traffic, creeping forward a few centimeters at a time, staring at a sea of red brake lights, incredulous that you've been stuck so long that the radio station is playing that song for the second time since you passed Sunset Boulevard and you still can't see the top of the pass. And it's midnight, and thank goodness it's not rush hour, when things would really be bad.

That, South Florida, is what you have to look forward to. And when it comes, unlike Los Angeles, you'll already have a commuter rail service in place that can actually get you places at 70 mph regardless of the time of day or the condition of the roads.

But for now, listen to Michael Mayo and stay in your car. I need a place on the train for my bike.

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